Unnatural Disasters

Unnatural Disasters

I am reading the World Economic and Social Survey 2011 a UN publication.  I get notices of lots of these and they are free to download. Fit the budget well.

This one is talking about my favorite topic, how do we get to a sustainable future.  The answer is with great difficulty.

I am just beginning it but something really caught my attention, the statement that the frequency of natural disasters has quintupled in the last 40 years.  quintupled.  They are putting most of the blame on climate, and a good deal of blame belongs there, but they are neglecting a factor.

Natural disasters in places with no people hardly rate.  A hurricane hitting a healthy beach and dune system with no development sustains much less damage than  a beach and dune system with condos or a boardwalk and hotels.  in other words, one of the characteristics of our system is that for the last 40 years people have been putting more and more infrastructure in more and more vulnerable places so that we are not only seeing climate exacerbated damages, but those associated with people moving into more and more fragile places.

No one in their right mind builds a house  on sand dunes and sand spits along the gulf coast or anywhere along the atlantic south of Delaware Bay.  Hurricanes are just too likely even without global weirding.  But we have more and more houses, and when we call for fewer houses along the beach the developers go crazy.  When people try to protect mangroves the economic interests are screaming louder and louder to let commerce run amok (well they do not call it run amok, but that is what it is)

So we are are seeing climate change cause more and more problems, but we exacerbate the problem by pushing into ever more fragile and vulnerable places.  part of it is there is no where else to go, all the rest is taken, and part of it is the these are  places of great beauty (after we have destroyed it elsewhere)

We are going to need a new term for these types of “natural disasters” so that we can be reminded of how much of the damage is due to human greed and and unwillingness to do proper planning.

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